Tag Archives: Race

Israel's Elbit speeds up race to fly military drones in civil airspace
July 12, 2018 6:45 am|Comments (0)

REHOVOT, Israel (Reuters) – Israeli defense firm Elbit Systems on Thursday unveiled a 1.6 ton unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) designed to fly in airspace currently reserved for piloted civilian planes as a race heats up to deploy military drones outside combat zones.

Employees check an Elbit Systems Ltd. Hermes 900 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the company’s drone factory in Rehovot, Israel, June 28, 2018. Picture taken June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Orel Cohen

The move came hours after a U.S. rival staged a landmark transatlantic demonstration flight, as arms firms vie to develop drones with flexibility to be used in civilian-controlled airspace – a drive that could spawn future technology for unmanned airliners.

Changing security concerns following the dismantling of Islamic State and rising geopolitical tensions have caused European countries to shift defense efforts from far-away conflicts to homeland security, resulting in demand for drones that can be safely integrated into civilian airspace to, for example, monitor border crossings, Elbit officials said.

A version of Elbit’s Hermes 900 StarLiner is being assembled for the Swiss armed forces and is scheduled to be delivered in 2019 in a deal worth $ 200 million.

“We are getting a lot of interest from other customers for the same configuration … from all over the world,” Elad Aharonson, general manager of Elbit’s ISTAR division, told Reuters.

The StarLiner, being launched ahead of next week’s Farnborough Airshow, is derived from the Hermes 900 operated by Brazil for surveillance during the 2014 World Cup. That operation required closing off airspace to civilian aircraft, something the StarLiner, with technology to detect aircraft and avoid collisions, will not require, Elbit said.

Elad Aharonson, general manager of the Elbit Systems Ltd. ISTAR division, stands among unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at the company’s drone factory in Rehovot, Israel, June 28, 2018. Picture taken June 28, 2018. REUTERS/Orel Cohen

The drone is compliant with NATO criteria, qualifying it to be integrated into civilian airspace, Elbit said. It will still need approval of the various civil aviation authorities.

The StarLiner has been flying in civilian airspace in Israel over the past year.

California-based General Atomics’ MQ-9B SkyGuardian – a version of the widely used Predator family – completed its Atlantic crossing on Wednesday ahead of the world’s largest military airshow at RAF Fairford in western England.

Elbit expects to receive approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for its own product in the coming months.

EASA was not available for comment.

Israel’s drone exports in 2005-2012 totaled $ 4.6 billion, according to consultancy Frost & Sullivan. They reached $ 525 million in 2016, accounting for 7 percent of Israel’s defense exports, defense ministry data show.

Drones are a major source of revenue for Elbit and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries. The United States and Israel dominate the industry but face growing competition from cheaper Chinese drones.

Slideshow (8 Images)

U.S. military drone makers are vying for a larger share of the global market, which market researcher the Teal Group forecasts will rise from $ 2.8 billion in 2016 to $ 9.4 billion in 2025.

INTELLIGENCE GATHERING

Flying alongside airliners would expand the horizons of drones originally developed for military surveillance. But it would also call for advanced sensors and software that could eventually filter back into commercial use as developers look at single-pilot and ultimately pilotless cargo or passenger jets.

The StarLiner can reach 30,000 feet – the altitude of some commercial jets – and photograph an 80 square kilometer (31 square mile) area, Elbit said.

“Some customers would like to use the system to gather intelligence,” Elbit CEO Bezhalel Machlis said. “Another example can be for homeland security applications, to fly above an area and make sure it is monitored against terrorist activities.”

The drone can be equipped with radar, cameras to take video and still pictures, and signals intelligence to analyze electronic signals.

“This is a major step towards unmanned civilian planes,” Aharonson said, adding the main barrier to such aircraft would be psychological rather than technical.

Editing by Jonathan Weber, Tim Hepher and Mark Potter

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Apple grabs two-year lead in 3D sensing race
March 20, 2018 6:01 am|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Most Android phones will have to wait until 2019 to duplicate the 3D sensing feature behind Apple’s Face ID security, three major parts producers have told Reuters, handicapping Samsung and others on a technology that is set to be worth billions in revenue over the next few years.

FILE PHOTO: Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, introduces the iPhone x during a launch event in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo

The development of new features for the estimated 1.5 billion smart phones shipped annually has been at the heart of the battle for global market share over the past decade, with Apple, bolstered by its huge R&D budget, often leading.

When the iPhone 5S launched with a fingerprint-sensing home button in September 2013, for example, it took its biggest rival Samsung until just April of the next year to deliver its own in the Galaxy S5, with others following soon after.

The 3D sensing technology is expected to enhance the next generation of phones, enabling accurate facial recognition as well as secure biometrics for payments, gesture sensing, and immersive shopping and gaming experiences.

Tech research house Gartner predicts that by 2021, 40 percent of smartphones will be equipped with 3D cameras, which can also be used for so-called augmented reality, or AR, in which digital objects cling tightly to images of the real world.

“This kind of functionality is going to be very important for AR,” said Gartner analyst Jon Erensen. “I think that is something where you don’t want to get left behind.”

According to parts manufacturers Viavi Solutions Inc, Finisar Corp and Ams AG, bottlenecks on key parts will mean mass adoption of 3D sensing will not happen until next year, disappointing earlier expectations.

That means that China’s Huawei, Xiaomi and others could be a total of almost two years behind Apple, which launched Face ID with its iPhone X anniversary phone last September.

In particular, Android producers are struggling to source vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, or VCSELs, a core part of Apple’s Face ID hardware.

“It is going to take them a lot of time, the Android-based customers, to secure capacity throughout the whole supply chain,” said Bill Ong, senior director of investor relations from Viavi, seen as the only major supplier of optical filters needed for the 3D sensing modules.

“We may have a potential introduction of a second handset maker into 3D sensing at the end of this calendar year. (But) the volumes would be very low. In 2019 you clearly will see at least two or more android-based phones,” he added.

Ong declined to name the company that might launch an Android phone with 3D face recognition this year but said that Viavi was in talks with all the major smart phone makers to supply the filters.

Some Android phones with 3D sensing capabilities have hit the market in small numbers, such as the Asus ZenFone AR released last year, but those models didn’t use the sensors for facial recognition like the iPhone X does.

Apple, Huawei and Xiaomi all declined to comment, as did Samsung, whose current phones use a standard camera for facial recognition.

FIREPOWER

Apple’s effort to get ahead with the technology is the latest evidence of an aggressive approach by the Cupertino-based company to making the most of the technological advances its financial firepower can deliver.

The iPhone maker’s $ 390 million deal in December to secure supplies from VCSEL-maker Finisar was one such move. Another is Apple’s discussions with major cobalt producers to nail down supplies for lithium-ion rechargeable batteries that power its mobile phones.

“Apple is always very focused on its supply chain,” says Gartner’s Erensen. “When it comes to new technologies like this and implementing them to new phones, it’s one of the ways that Apple can really can be aggressive, differentiate and take advantage of the position they have in the market.”

Several sector analysts say their channel checks show Apple was initially sourcing VCSELs chiefly from California-based Lumentum and that bottlenecks in production there last year also spurred the $ 390 million deal with Finisar.

Lumentum, which declined to comment, is ramping up additional manufacturing capacity for VCSELs and edge-emitting lasers for the first half of fiscal 2019, according to the company’s earnings call.

It will also be helped by the purchase this week of another optical components producer Oclaro Inc. Finisar too, expects to expand in 2019.

All of that, however, still leaves the major Android producers searching for their own supplies of VCSELs.

Craig Thompson, vice president of new markets at Finisar, says interest in the technology is universal across the sector.

“Each customer has their own adoption timeline and rollout plan, which we can’t discuss, but we expect the market opportunity for VCSEL technology to increase substantially in 2019,” he says.

Another producer, Austria-based Ams, also expects to have VCSEL chips widely available next year and says it has won a large deal with one phone maker.

“As part of a combined external and internal VCSEL supply chain where an external volume production supply chain is available to us, we are currently building internal VCSEL production capacity in Singapore,” Moritz Gmeiner, head of investor relations for AMS, told Reuters.

“I expect this capacity to be available for mass production next year.”

Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bangalore and Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Writing by Patrick Graham; editing by Edward Tobin

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Waymo and GM Lead the Self-Driving Car Race, New Data Shows
February 5, 2018 6:03 pm|Comments (0)

Most of the questions surrounding the coming age of driverless cars pertain to practical things: regulation, insurance, training protocols for the cars’ remote human backups. Some are philosophical: What do we owe the people whose jobs will be annihilated? Do robo cars need ethics lessons? At least one question is practical and philosophical: How do we know when these things are ready to ditch their human safety drivers and roll about unattended?

No one has much of a response. You could say that as soon as the robot is safer than the average human driver—who crashes once every 238,000 miles or so—it’s wrong to keep it in the lab. Or you can argue that robo cars ought to be held to higher standards: Should they be 10 times better than the human? 1,000 times? Whatever the answer is, data will help us get there. And so we turn to the California DMV’s 2017 Autonomous Vehicle Disengagement Reports.

The Golden State, home to many of the companies leading the robo revolution, has some of the strictest rules for AVs in the country. Operators who run cars on public roads must publicly report any crashes they’re involved in. And at the end of every year, they must hand over data on how many miles they drove and how many times their onboard human safety driver had to take control from the machine—that’s called a disengagement. Combine those, and you have a number approximating how far any company’s self-driving car can go without human help. Something like a grade.

The metric is imperfect, and this data comes with a crate of caveats. But before we get into those, know this: Waymo (formerly known as Google’s self-driving car project) and General Motors appear to be leading the pack and making rapid progress toward the day when human drivers, with all their inattention and distraction and tendency to crash, will be obsolete.

Ifs and Buts

You can read more about the shortcomings of disengagement reports here, but here’s the quick rundown:

  • They’re unscientific, because each company reports its data in a different way, offering various levels of detail and idiosyncratic explanations for what triggered the human takeover.
  • They’re packed with vague language and lack context. Delphi cites “cyclist” as the reason for a bunch of disengagements. Zoox blamed every disengagement on a “planning discrepancy” or “hardware discrepancy.”
  • They’re little use for anyone who wants to compare rival companies, because those companies aren’t running the same tests: Waymo does most of its testing in simple suburbs; GM focuses on the complex city. They’re better for tracking the progress of each outfit, but still not great, because those companies change how and where they test over time.
  • A disengagement does not mean the car was going to crash, only that the human driver wasn’t 100 percent confident in how it would behave.
  • They only cover driving on public roads in California. So we don’t know anything about Ford, which focuses its testing around Detroit and Pittsburgh. We don’t see data for Waymo’s increasingly important test program in Phoenix—where its cars are tooling about without anyone inside.

On the other hand, the disengagement reports are the best data we’ve got for evaluating these development efforts. No state but California demands anything like this, and private companies only share such info when the government demands it.

So, let’s sprinkle some grains of salt on the numbers and take a look. We broke them down into a pair of two-axis charts. The first looks at Waymo and General Motors. It notes how many miles they drove in 2016 and 2017 (in green) and how many miles they averaged between disengagements (in blue). (By the way, Uber didn’t have to file a report, because this data isn’t required until your first full calendar year of testing. Uber didn’t get its permit to test in California until March of 2017.)

The takeaway here is that Waymo’s software remains excellent, and it’s still doing tons of testing in California. For GM, you can see a huge ramp-up in miles driven, and a steep increase in miles per disengagement. That’s progress, and it’s a good thing: GM plans to launch a car without a steering wheel or pedals next year. Keep in mind that GM does nearly all its public street testing in San Francisco, a much more complicated environment than Palo Alto and Mountain View, where Waymo works.

HOTLITTLEPOTATO

Next, we have the data for Delphi (now known as Aptiv), Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, and Zoox, a San Francisco–based startup working to build a self-driving vehicle that looks nothing like today’s cars—not that it will say anything more than that for the time being. Each has a serious program, but they do so much less testing than Waymo and GM that we put them in their own chart. (Otherwise, the scales would just be totally out of proportion to each other.)

HOTLITTLEPOTATO

More caveats: Mercedes-Benz may not look so hot in California, but that data’s from just three vehicles. It does much more work in Europe: In 2017, it sent an autonomous S-Class on a five-month tour of five continents. Nissan does a lot of testing at NASA’s Ames Research Center, which doesn’t count as public land, so doesn’t require data reporting. And to get the most interesting bit of data from Zoox, you have to dive into its report.

In its first year of testing (thus the lack of 2016 numbers), it drove just over 100 miles through August. Over the next three months, it drove about 2,000. Yet its rate of disengagements remained steady. Overall, it averaged 160 miles per disengagement. But if you look at just November, when it was doing lots of testing in downtown San Francisco, that number jumps to 430. Even with the caveats, it’s a clear sign that Zoox is making impressive progress—and that more than one of these students is getting ready to throw on a gown, grab its diploma, and give you a ride.


Robo-Drive

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raceAhead: Three Podcasts to Help You Understand Things, Charles Manson’s Race War, Life in North Korea
November 21, 2017 12:01 am|Comments (0)

If one thing has become clear during the two years of working the race beat at Fortune is this: Everything has a backstory. Our ability to understand and embrace these hidden histories can help us all become more curious, aware, empathetic and informed.

Here are three podcasts that I’ve recently enjoyed that brought a fresh perspective to something I already thought I knew a bit about. Turns out, I was missing more than just some interesting facts. Enjoy.

Good Muslim, Bad Muslim is a delightful podcast, and ordinarily a breezy conversation between two friends, Tanzila ‘Taz’ Ahmed and Zahra Noorbakhsh, about their complicated modern relationship with faith, love, social justice and American life. They took a break from their usual dish to join an annual pilgrimage to Manzanar, a Japanese American internment camp just north of Los Angeles. This year’s visit commemorated the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which ordered the incarceration of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans and was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Executive orders matter, yo.) The trip was organized by the Vigilant Love Coalition and their Bridging Communities program, which draws parallels between the Japanese experience post-Pearl Harbor and the experience of Muslim Americans today. “Today we are retracing the humanity of a group of people who our country shamelessly mistreated,” the tour guide begins. While Taz and Zahra continually hand the mic to other pilgrims and survivors to make sure their stories are heard, the bigger message is clear. “Your citizenship will not protect you,” one woman tells them.

Every installment of Second Wave is a revelation and a thoughtful exploration of the experiences of Vietnamese Americans in the aftermath of a war that hasn’t ended for everyone. One delicious example is Pho, part savory noodle-dish, part iconic comfort food born in a faraway land and now, a dish ripe for cultural appropriation. Seemingly out of the blue, the dish has been embraced by hipster chefs in the U.S. and turned into a barely recognizable version of itself, with pho experts everywhere making fancy derivations like pho dumplings, pho salads, even rolling “phorritos.” Host Thanh Tan sits with two women who have made their own careers with the noodle dish, writer Andrea Nguyen and chef Yenvy Pham, owner of Pho Bac in Seattle, and have a fascinating conversation about what the soup meant to both the working class and elites in Vietnam, and the uncomfortable peace they’re making with its gentrification stateside. And then the talk turns to a scandal you may have missed — the recent Pho-gate, and their ultimate defense against the ultimate erasure.

I’ve fallen hard for Uncivil, a new Gimlet podcast about the Civil War that explores the stories that have been left out of history if you get my drift. Again, there are no wrong choices, but for the purposes of digging into a juicy backstory, start with their eye-opening exploration of the true origins of Dixie, the unofficial and still beloved anthem of the Confederacy. The common knowledge was this: Dixie was a Confederate anthem, written by a Southerner, during the dark days of the Civil War. As usual, the common knowledge is completely wrong. There are a couple of twists before we get to the painful truth, an erasure so profound that it’ll get you whistling Dixie yourself. Hosts Chenjerai Kumanyika and Jack Hitt are both excellent. But later in this episode, Kumanyika talks about “coon spaces,” a framing for performative blackness for the benefit of white audiences. It yields one of the richest conversations I’ve heard in ages. In this instance, it’s with a musician named Justin Robinson, who both understands the true roots of the song and has performed it with a sense of dignity and restorative justice. It didn’t quite work. “They invite you to dehumanize yourself for profit, for their pleasure, to deepen their sense of identity,” says Kumanyika of the “coon space” dynamic. “You’re sort of hitting on the head what it means to be black in America or indigenous in America,” Robinson begins.

On Point

Cult leader Charles Manson dies having failed to achieve his dream of a full-on race war
It’s an element of his cultish control over his “hippie” followers that often gets the short shrift. His murderous rampage was not just an attack on the Hollywood elite. It was a full-throated attempt to incite a race war that would – insert magical thinking here – end with him running the world. The Root has a great explainer here. I’d also point you to another podcast, currently in production called Young Charlie. It unfolds as the breathless true crime it actually was, but also gives rich context to the person Manson was and the country he was planning to overtake. Not only did he fall through every possible crack in his young life, he was monstrously smart and profoundly cynical, fully prepared to leverage a racist country for his own benefit.
Wondery
How rapper Meek Mill has come to personify criminal justice reform
Rapper Meek Mill is back in prison for a parole violation stemming from various criminal charges he faced over a decade ago. And now, the Philadelphia home town hero has become a flashpoint in a long overdue conversation about reform and judicial overreach. If you haven’t been following the story, then this explainer from the Washington Post will get you up to speed. But don’t stop there. Read this op-ed from Jay-Z, whose Roc Nation reps Mill, but who has also become increasingly outspoken on justice reform issues. “On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started,” he begins. But Mill was nineteen when he was sent to jail for drug and gun possession and served an eight month sentence. “For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside.”
Washington Post
Lena Dunham under fire for siding with friend accused of sexual assault
The man in question is Girls writer Murray Miller, and he was accused by actor Aurora Perrineau. While the backlash was swift and followed by a penned apology, writer Zinzi Clemmons has decided enough is enough. In a statement posted to Twitter, she announced that she will no longer be contributing to Lenny Letter, Dunham’s online feminist newsletter. “She cannot have our words if she cannot respect us,” she writes. She also describes the casual racism, and worse, that she believes defines Dunham’s circle, many of whom she was acquainted with in college. “It is time for women of color — black women in particular — to divest from Lena Dunham,” she says.
Twitter
What it’s like to live in North Korea
The Washington Post has interviewed 25 North Koreans who have lived, in some capacity, in the country under Kim Jong Un. Their tales are uniformly grim and disappointing. They all thought that the millennial leader would bring fresh ideas and much-needed change to a country crippled by generational dictatorship. Instead, things got worse, as the state broke down and the economy crumbled. The only way to survive is the constant hustle of dealing in bribes and the illegal/informal economy. The threat of state violence, they say, is ever-present. “I once went for six months without getting any salary at all. We lived in a shipping container at the construction site… Once I didn’t bathe for two months,” said one construction worker who escaped in 2015.
The Washington Post

The Woke Leader

Princeton University comes clean on race
Here’s just one example: Researchers have recently found evidence that Samuel Finley, the school’s fifth president, sold his slaves in front of his stately 18th century clapboard home, once a popular stop on the campus tour. That is just one of many stories being brought to light as the institution works to reconcile it’s complex past. To that end, it’s worth spending time with the Princeton and Slavery Project, an evolving work of depth and honesty that includes primary documents and articles highlighting the university’s long history of slavery-related funding and racial violence.
New York Times
The bleak and poignant history of black NASCAR drivers
After a 46 year dry spell, a black rookie driver is set to become the first full-time black driver since Wendell Scott stopped driving in 1971. Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr., is set to drive car number 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports next season. “There’s only 1 driver from an African-American background at the top level of our sport … I am the one,” he said on Twitter. “You’re not gonna stop hearing about ‘the Black driver’ for years. Embrace it, accept it and enjoy the journey.” But it’s worth remembering Scott, the very first black driver, who braved Jim Crow laws and death threats to persist in the sport. He won money and acclaim, but never the traditional post-race kiss from the white beauty queen. Click through for the real deal history.
Atlanta Blackstar
Take a jazz lesson with Wynton Marsalis and Jon Batiste
Batiste, the less-well-known of the two jazz greats, is the leader of the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” band, and absolutely holds his own with Marsalis, during this hour-long segment on the genius of jazz from The Aspen Institute. The conversation includes plenty of music and technical talk, like how pentatonic scales originally came from Africa. It also weaves in discussions of painful elements of life under the English plantation system, which also exploited Irish people. The strange mix of race, culture, and oppression found its way into the alchemy known as blues and jazz.
YouTube

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Horse named 'Cloud Computing' finds burst of speed to beat 'Classic Empire' in actual race
May 28, 2017 12:10 pm|Comments (0)

A horse called ‘Cloud Computing‘ has just beaten rival ‘Classic Empire’ to the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the three races comprising the …


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Add-on turns VR motorcycling into a realistic race into the future
September 17, 2016 10:10 pm|Comments (0)

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Despite the fact that Tokyo has rolled out its own virtual reality arcade earlier this year, U.S. VR companies are still slow to warm to the idea. But these new VR accessories from Futuretown might change a few minds. 

A new trailer released by the company shows a VR headset user on top of a horse-like mount, a motorcycle-style mount and a swiveling skateboard platform, all of which correspond to objects being used in different VR environments by the gamer. 

We haven’t had a chance to try the devices, but the trailer does a great job of making the experience look even more immersive than usual. If these accessories are even remotely affordable, they could help increase the speed of mainstream adoption of VR.  Read more…

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The Race to the Cloud – Changes Afoot for Life Science Research
February 27, 2016 10:10 am|Comments (0)

Security is one of the main hesitations to using cloud computing, but most people in the industry – and patients – recognize that the majority of data …


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